Plan to widen C.R. 54 resurfaces
ZEPHYRHILLS - A plan to widen one of the city’s most clogged roadways is back on track. Two weeks ago, the Zephyrhills City Council adopted a resolution asking Pasco County to “resurrect” the County Road 54 widening project in front of Zephyrhills High School. The $10 million road project has been on hold since the county completed the preliminary design more than four years ago. Commissioners had moved the project to the next round of Penny for Pasco funding, which starts in 2015. But the county has $18 million in unallocated money from the current round of Penny of Pasco — and half of that is dedicated for transportation projects. Commissioners held a workshop Tuesday morning in Dade City to discuss how to spend the available Penny cash.Debbie Bolduc, the county’s administrator for engineering services, met last week with city leaders who want the county to advance the funding for the engineering work so the project could be ready for construction in 2015. She recommended allocating $175,000 to pay for the county’s share of the contract. “They’re anxious to move forward in the design and permitting,” Bolduc said. “We thought we would start early and get the design and permitting done.” Plans called for widening the segment between Gall Boulevard and 12th Street to a four-lane divided road with bike lanes, sidewalks and a 10-foot multipurpose trail. The segment between 12th and 23rd streets would be a two-lane divided road with bike lanes, sidewalks and a multipurpose trail. The C.R. 54 work is just one of many transportation improvements added to the Penny for Pasco list. The most costly is the intersection improvements at State Road 54 and Morris Bridge Road. Bolduc said the county needs to buy a gas station at the southwest corner of the intersection to accommodate the widening, so she recommends adding $2 million to $6.7 million already earmarked for right-of-way acquisition plus $3 million for construction. Commissioner Kathryn Starkey was especially pleased to endorse the plan, which includes $407,750 to add turn lanes at Starkey Boulevard and Alico Pass. “This intersection’s very important to me and to my family. We keep getting hit there,” she said. Fire Chief Scott Cassin outlined his recommendations for spending the $3.6 million in unallocated money on public safety capitol improvements. The largest expenditure, nearly $1.3 million, would be advanced from the 2015 Penny cycle to upgrade the department’s radio system. He requested $402,000 to add refrigeration units and ventilators on all ambulances and $290,400 to buy new stretchers. Eight stations would get specialized washing machines, called extractors, that are designed to wash firefighters’ bunker gear. Each unit costs $10,000. Cassin said six county fire stations do not have brush trucks, so he requested $190,000 to buy two brush trucks. “As you know, there is no part of Pasco County that is immune to brush fires,” he said. The Environmental Lands department would buy a new tractor and all-terrain vehicle to assist in brush fires and controlled burns for $72,000. Acting facilities manager Terence Falke outlined his plan for spending $2.6 million in Penny money earmarked for infrastructure projects. Five fire stations would get remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, several county facilities would get backup generators and electrical upgrades. The jail would get a new roof over some sections. The West Pasco Government Center and Public Works building would get elevator upgrades. Falke’s recommendations leave the county with about $3 million in the account.